After my hour walk around the tsunami devastated town of Ishinomaki, I went straight to the town’s port terminal to board the 12pm ferryboat that will take me to Tashirojima or popularly known as the Island of Cats.
The ferry terminal at Ishinomaki is the only way to access Tashirojima, so I was very conscious about the timings, arrived an hour earlier prior departure to ensure that I won’t miss the very limited traveling boat per day. (If you want to know the direction how to go to Tashirojima, message me on the comments below, I will be happy to help).
Once again, with my awkward mix of Japanese-English language, I was able to communicate to the very helpful staff of Ajishima Line where I wanted to go and what I wanted to see. A map in Japanese was handed out to me together with an advise that I should disembark at Nitoda port (2nd stop) instead of Oodomari port (1st stop), due to the availability of more cats to play with.
The staff was happy to see a foreigner visiting the area; I was received with such enthusiasm and was offered a coffee while waiting. Returning the favor, I opened a box of Hokkaido Potato Farm omiyage (souvenir) that I had with me and share it with them.
Due to the 2011 Great Tohoku Earthquake/Tsunami disaster, Tashirojima has gained popularity in the world citing as an island where the human inhabitants (mostly elderly, above 65 years old) are outnumbered by feline population.
Situated very close to the earthquake epicenter, the island was almost submerged under water but it was gladly reported that both people and cats population were all safe.
The increase in number of cats in the island is due to the local fisherman belief that feeding and taking care of stray cats will bring wealth and good fortune,and the cats behaviors and actions provides an accurate prediction of the weather and the fishing patterns.
Still, there were only few people who know about or who decided to travel to the island, including my Japanese friends and colleagues who wonders if such an island actually existed.
If you decided to visit Tashirojima or mention it to other people, the obvious next question is “Do you love cats?”, which I was asked a lot. I made several friends on the ferryboat and one of them is lady from Kyoto who owns 4 cats and travels to Tashirojima every year, spend 3 days photographing and playing with island cats.
I am not really a cat or dog person, but might be converted to one after seeing these cute cats on the street. I haven’t photograph cats before, so just happy that the cats of Tashirojima did cooperate and posed, though some seems to be on the bad mood and wanted a treat.
Apart from spending time with the cats, one of the most interesting architecture I have seen in Japan is a few minutes walk from Nitoda port, I almost missed it due to the lack of English signage. The island is known as the Manga Island.
A tourist rental vacation homes built in 2000 and designed by famous manga/anime creator Shotaro Ishinomari, the Manga Island compromised of several buildings shaped like cats and decorated with cats drawings.
Like the rest of the homes in the island, these Manga Island vacation homes were untouched by the tsunami due to higher elevation. Though, during my visit it seems that the facilities were all closed.
According to the shrine background story, a local fisherman was collecting stones to use as a fixed-net when one of the stones fell from his hand and accidentally hitting and killing a stray cat. Feeling terribly sorry for what happen, the fisherman buried and enshrined the cat on the present location of Neko-jinja.
Tashirojima is an island worth visiting. I really enjoyed my time and make friends along the way- both cats and human of course.